Identification Of A Woman

Identification Of A Woman


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Of the great Italian directors, Fellini, Visconti and Antonioni, it is the latter who remains a mystery. L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961), introspective and emotionally tense exercises in sexual repression against a background of privileged indolence and alienation, have been described as works of genius - or indulgence. Things started to lose direction with the English language movies, Blow Up (1966) and Zabriskie Point (1970), as his understanding of swinging London and the drop out/tune in mentality of post flower power California simply missed the beat.

Identification Of A Woman (1982) is not exactly his 8½, but the protagonist, Nic (Tomas Milian), is vaguely dabbling with the idea of making a film about the ideal woman, while carrying on with a number of lovers, especially Mavi (Daniela Silverio), a girl from what used to be called “the top drawer”, which gives Antonioni the chance to repeat what he did in La Notte and Blow Up, exaggerate the jaw dropping dullness of aristos at play. Some might think he has a chip, others praise his courage in exposing the vacuum at the heart of upper-class society. Certainly, the blue bloods here are either seriously screwed up or unapologetically vapid.

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The problem is Milian’s performance. He plays Nic as a conceited, vain, selfish philanderer on the cusp of middle age who finds the “difficult” part of women incomprehensible and, frankly, a waste of space. The sex is good, or so he thinks, and makes an effort with Mavi whose education in a Welsh boarding school taught her life saving skills, but nothing useful in the bedroom. Nic sorts this out with a lesson in cunnilingus, but can’t be fished when she complains of his odd behaviour when driving through fog to a rustic country hideaway, full of bats and scary wild life.

Typical of the Antonioni style, there are suggestions of darker things and threats of unmentionable harm if Nic continues with Mavi, which only enflames his paranoia. She may be needy and unused to personal relationships - “You manage to sound intelligent and stupid at the same time,” he tells her in one of his candid moments - but is still capable of saying, “You don’t love me; I only help you to live,” which hits him firmly in the gonads.

What is it about Nic that makes him unloveable? After two months of non verbals in the rumpy dept (“I don’t like sex talk”), Mavi says, “I know nothing about you.” Ditto the audience. Milian does not have the acting smarts to change this state of limbo. It’s not that Nic’s life appears hollow, which it does, it’s the lack of chemistry. When you think of L’Avventura and then look at Identificazione di Una Douna, you find it hard to believe that the same man directed both.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2008
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The casual manipulations of a serial philanderer.
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Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Writer: Michelangelo Antonioni, Gérard Brach

Starring: Tomas Milian, Daniela Silverio, Christine Boisson, Veronica Lazar, Marcel Bozzuffi, Enrica Fico, Itaco Nardulli

Year: 1982

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France


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